Journal of Academic Ethics

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 229–243 | Cite as

Academic Doping: Institutional Policies Regarding Nonmedical use of Prescription Stimulants in U.S. Higher Education

  • Ross AikinsEmail author
  • Xiaoxue Zhang
  • Sean Esteban McCabe


Academic integrity policies at 200 institutions of higher education (IHE’s) were examined for the presence of academic prohibitions against the nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPS) or any other cognitive enhancing drug (CED). Researchers used online search tools to locate policy handbooks in a stratified random sample of IHE’s drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database, searching for NMUPS/CED use as violations of either academic integrity or alcohol and other drug (AOD) policies. Of 191 academic integrity policies found online, NMUPS/CED prohibitions were present in only one. However, NMUPS was addressed in all but two of the 200 IHE AOD policies, often with language referencing IHE adherence to federal or state law. NMUPS/CED prohibitions are predominantly absent in IHE academic integrity policies, raising questions about whether colleges and universities are concerned about the use of enhancement drugs as a form of cheating. Implications for fairness, health promotion, and future research are discussed.


Academic integrity Higher education Cognitive enhancement, nonmedical use of prescription stimulants Ethics Cheating Policy 



The development of this manuscript was supported in part by research grants T32DA007233, R01DA031160 and R01DA036541 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health had no role in the study design, collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data, writing of the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health. For the first author, work on this manuscript was supported by the T32DA007233 research grant. For the third author, work on this manuscript was supported by research grants R01DA031160 and R01DA036541.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross Aikins
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xiaoxue Zhang
    • 2
  • Sean Esteban McCabe
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Research on Women and GenderUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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